The classic symptoms of stroke are speech disturbance or other higher cortical dysfunction, limb weakness or sensory disturbance, visual impairment and brainstem symptoms. If there is speech disturbance, you may need to get additional information from friends or family.

The onset of these symptoms occurs abruptly, usually without warning; if onset is unclear the history must be obtained from elsewhere.

In some older people with other co-morbidities, the presentation can be less clear cut. But in general terms, stroke does not cause non-specific presentations such as blackouts or falls or dizziness acutely. Unless there are other features such as those outlined above to support the diagnosis, stroke/TIA should not be considered in the differential diagnosis of non-specific presentations.

People with previous stroke can present as if they have a new stroke in the context of an intercurrent infection treating the infection gets them better quickly.

Early management represents only a small part of the journey to recovery from stroke. But correct diagnosis is crucial; this teaching module covers the initial diagnosis.


Trajectory of stroke recovery: the hospital stay represents only 1% of the total period spent in recovery.